Launching a successful podcast involves more than just engaging content and an advanced streaming setup. It’s about creating a dynamic conversation that captivates your audience.
As of 2023, there are 464.7 million active podcast listeners worldwide, making podcasts a powerful medium for reaching and connecting with a broad audience.
But to keep your audience engaged and grow your brand, you need fresh, exciting content. Having a guest on your podcast can give your audience a new perspective and create a lively dialogue that will keep your listeners returning for every episode.
However, an often overlooked element of podcast hosting is how well you prepare your guests for the experience. Lack of preparation can leave your podcast feeling flat and uninteresting. In this guide, we’ll explore the essential steps for every stage of the hosting process — from understanding your guest to the day of the podcast.
Understand Your Guest
To create an engaging interview, start by understanding your guest. This foundational step creates an environment where guests feel relaxed, valued, and mentally prepared to share meaningful ideas with your audience. Here are some key aspects to consider:
- Research guests’ backgrounds: Scan their website, social media accounts, published works, and media appearances to understand their expertise and interests. Take notes on accomplishments, career paths, and advocacy issues to identify areas of passion or knowledge.
- Assess areas of interest: What topics, industries, and concepts do they focus on? What unique perspectives or little-known insights can they share? This helps tailor questions to their niche.
- Identify their story: Look for personal anecdotes, challenges they’ve overcome, and inspirations that shaped their work. Powerful backstories resonate with listeners’ emotions, helping them connect more deeply to your content.
- Gauge style and tone: Evaluate previous interviews and communications style. Are they lively, serious, humorous, or controversial? This sets the stage for their comfort level and session format.
- Define off-limit topics: Research any public mistakes, controversies, or social media mishaps associated with your guest. By doing so, you can proactively prepare for these topics, preventing uncomfortable pauses or a situation where your guest may choose to disengage from the discussion.
First impressions matter, so when contacting potential podcast guests, reach out warmly and politely over their preferred channels like email, phone, or social media. Introduce yourself and give a short overview of your podcast concept. Extend the invitation to appear as a guest and highlight why you’d value their specific perspective, stories, or insights.
To set the stage effectively, provide key details on your podcast format, style, and target listener demographics. For example, share if interviews involve a structured format or a free-flowing exchange. Explain if episodes feature a solo guest, host, co-host combo, or panel format. Provide information on the typical duration of each episode and how often they are released to give a clear idea of the show’s regular rhythm.
Finally, convey clear expectations around things like lead time for interview scheduling/prep, their total time commitment, involvement in post-production, and technical requirements based on your recording format.
A comfortable and well-organized studio environment can put guests at ease, fostering better conversations and interactions. It reflects a level of professionalism that can boost your guest’s confidence in your podcast, potentially leading to more engaging and authentic discussions.
Setting up your podcast studio for professional-quality sound doesn’t have to be complicated. Begin by selecting high-quality microphones, whether USB or XLR, to ensure crisp audio with optimal control. Place the microphones close for clarity while using pop filters to avoid plosive sounds.
Treat your studio walls and doors with sound-dampening foam to eliminate unwanted echoes. To maintain audio quality during live recording, use high-grade content creator equipment, including an audio mixer and a stream deck.
When recording, make sure to:
- Eliminate all ambient noise from computer fans, traffic, and music.
- Adjust input gain so guest voices register between -12 and -6 dB.
- Place foam underneath mics to minimize vibration.
- Ask lively guests to avoid loud outbursts.
Before each podcast session, conduct a rehearsal to ensure everything runs smoothly:
- Check recording software connections and configuration.
- Test video if using conferencing platforms like Zoom or Riverside.
- Have backup batteries and storage media available.
- Confirm remote access links for smooth guest access.
For easy editing, choose intuitive software like Squadcast or Descript. Riverside’s separate tracks is another good option for simplifying post-production. By confirming the tech flow pre-show, you can reduce the stress when conducting live interviews with guests.
Share potential questions or talking points when confirming your podcast interview to stimulate discussion. Tailor these to the guest’s background, allowing them to prepare unique insights. Send over the list one to two weeks before the show’s air date so guests have adequate lead time without overthinking responses.
Encourage guests to recount personal anecdotes, real-world examples, or data to support their perspectives. These add color for listeners. Prepare them to cite sources if quoting statistics, studies, or journals. Have your guest send relevant articles, links, or imagery to weave in as you chat. Though organic banter works best, some guests may prefer using cue cards as memory joggers.
Discuss the expected interaction style so guests come ready to match your energy level. Will you joke around or have an intense intellectual exchange? Set the tone for sharing formal opinions or vulnerable personal tales. This allows authenticity within understood boundaries.
Day of the Podcast
Contact your guest the morning of the recording to confirm logistics and availability for pre-show check-ins. When they arrive, give a warm welcome and a brief tour of your studio or recording space to build familiarity and make them feel more comfortable.
Offer water, tea, or refreshments to help guests relax as you handle final technical preparations behind the scenes. Keep equipment neat and visually appealing to feel like media pros! Start with five to 10 minutes of casual banter to settle in before officially starting the recording.
Give a one-minute rundown of the show format and structure for first-timers. Record a brief audio test for levels and quality assurance, and clarify if you’ll pause between question clusters or power straight through. Keep extra SD cards or hard drive space on standby for long-form discussions.
Throughout the interview, observe subtle cues to ensure guest confidence and engagement. Provide affirmative nods and laughs to punctuate good points. Keep body language open and positive to build trust and rapport while capturing quality content.
Engage with Your Podcasting Community
Preparing guests for your podcast is a multi-faceted process that involves research, communication, and technical coordination. By following these practical steps, you can create an environment where your guests feel valued, ensuring a successful and enjoyable podcasting experience for you and your audience.